An east Alabama man was among the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago today to liberate France from the Nazis.
"When the first wave made, they got off the ship, they went straight up, and they had everything ready," Roland Cronan said.
Cronan still remembers getting off the boat at Normandy, June 6, 1944. He remembers strategically basing their movements inward by the sound of small arms fire, where they could move where the Germans couldn't reach them. He remembers coming up on a friend who was guarding a burned out building.
"I said, 'You've been crying, haven't you, Pop?' He said 'Hell yeah, and you have too!'" Cronan laughed. "But he said, he pointed his finger at me and he said, 'I can tell you one thing: you can kiss the States goodbye, we'll never see 'em again.'"
Thankfully, Cronan's friend was worng and they both made it back home. A lot of their friends didn't.
Now 91-years-old, Cronan lives in an assisted living facility in his hometown of Piedmont where he grew up and worked for years in a cotton mill. He still has medals and still has rocks from Normandy Beach, even the company Christmas card he sent home months earlier. He still has his memories too.
"What I couldn't understand is that they called a truce to pick up the dead, ours and theirs, everything would be quiet as a mouse. But whenever you're talking about picking up the dead on the front line, it's with dump trucks. Young men, I'm telling you, they weren't men they was kids," Cronan said.
Cronan retired from the Army as an E-4 and promptly joined the National Guard, and his wife, he says, was not happy at all.
Cronan took part in a D-Day observance Friday morning at the Berman Museum in Anniston. He says he hopes future generations remember what his comrades did that day and throughout the Second World War, and he thinks they will.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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